VOA reported on November 1, 2012 that Oromo prisoners of conscience Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelisa, et al. were convinced in an Ethiopian court because of their political views.
In his statement to the court Bekele Gerba said that he was honored to struggle for the Oromo people, according to Gadaa.com.
Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa were thrown into prison, after they meet an Amnesty International delegation in August 2011. The AI delegation was immediately thrown out of the country.
The unsettling thing for Ethiopia is the fact that these are only two renowned individuals. As a matter of fact, in Ethiopia today there reportedly is an estimated 20,000 Oromo political prisoners, representing over 90 percent of the political prisoners in the country.
At the time of their arrests, Bekele Gerba was the deputy Chairman of the legally recognized opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), and Olbana Lelisa a leader in the Oromo People’s Congress Party (OPC), another legally recognized opposition political party.
In connection with this case, Amnesty International a year ago on 25 November 2011 wrote:
- Since March 2011, at least 108 opposition party members and six journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia for alleged involvement with various proscribed terrorist groups. By November, 107 of the detainees had been charged with crimes under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Criminal Code. A further six journalists, two opposition party members and one human rights defender, all living in exile, were charged in absentia. Trials in all these cases have begun, and are ongoing at the time of writing.
Amnesty International believes that the prolonged series of arrests and prosecutions indicates systematic use of the law and the pretext of counter-terrorism by the Ethiopian government to silence people who criticize or question their actions and policies, especially opposition politicians and the independent media. Whilst these groups have often been arrested and prosecuted in the past, larger numbers of arrests indicate an intensified crackdown on freedom of expression in 2011.
Such inhumanity, especially ethnically directed harassment and injustice ironically by the very people who raised arms nearly four decades ago, because they felt they were treated in this very manner (by their account), does not bode well for the country, not even for them, particularly at a time when other Ethiopians are opening their eyes to see who they are.
The signs are out there telling them that at this time and age, this is not something that a nation could keep on swallowing the shameful atrocities being committed in its name. Look at the uprisings in mosques, churches, farms, schools and universities.
To me it appears that human solidarity is coalescing against injustice in Ethiopia, nepotism of the type that has become prevalent since 1991. The next thing is the anger about the siphoning of a poor nation’s resource for the comforts of the few into foreign banks and other outlets.
It is pretty sad that, despite laws against corruption by foreign entities in North America and Europe, those snitching from a poor and hungry Ethiopia today are getting enormous support and accolades than the victims. That is why Ethiopians are being worked and tensions are springing in different parts of the country.